Day of the Falcon
|Day of the Falcon|
|Directed by||Jean-Jacques Annaud|
|Produced by||Tarak Ben Ammar|
|Screenplay by||Jean-Jacques Annaud
|Based on||South of the Heart: A Novel of Modern Arabia
by Hans Ruesch
|Music by||James Horner|
|Editing by||Hervé Schneid|
Benelux Film Distributors
|Distributed by||Image Entertainment|
|Running time||130 mins|
Day of the Falcon (also known as Black Gold and Black Thirst) is a 2011 drama film, based on Hans Ruesch's 1957 novel South of the Heart: A Novel of Modern Arabia (also known as The Great Thirst and The Arab), directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. It was produced by Tarak Ben Ammar and co-produced by Doha Film Institute, Qatar. The film stars Akin Gazi, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Mark Strong, Riz Ahmed and Tahar Rahim.
The film had a budget of US$55 million, making it one of the most expensive films backed by an Arab about an Arab subject.
Emir Nesib (Antonio Banderas), Sultan of Hobeica and Sultan Amar (Mark Strong) of Salmaah have a dispute with their border. Both have been fighting war for a vast barren land they call "The Yellow Belt". While Emir Nesib was winning the war he forced Amar to make a deal. They meet and make a peace pact, deciding that the Yellow Belt belongs to neither and should be left as a no man's land. As a guarantee, Emir Nesib takes Sultan Amar's children Saleh and Auda so that Sultan Amar would not break the pact. Amar, though reluctant, but being a god fearing person believing in honor, agrees, when Nesib promises him that the children will be treated as Nesib's own along with his children Tariq and Leyla. Saleh is free spirited while Auda is an introvert who is always into books. Leyla and Auda become good friends until they become adolescent.
Years pass and the children grow up. Auda (Tahar Rahim) is still the bookworm, while Saleh (Akin Gazi) misses his father and hopes to see him someday. Sam Thurkettle (Corey Johnson), a geologist working for a western oil firm "Texan Oil", meets Nesib after making some survey in the Yellow Belt. Sam shows him a piece of black shale and convinces Nesib that it is an indication of crude oil beneath the ground. He explains Nesib that crude oil is very valuable and if Nesib lets him extract oil, his company would pay him phenomenal money, that would make him richer than the King of England. Nesib accepts the offer and lets the westerners to extract oil from the yellow belt, thus violating the peace pact. Money slowly starts to pour in and Nesib starts to modernize his country by building schools and hospitals. Nesib makes Auda the national librarian and Tariq their Colonel. He send his envoy to Amar to strike a deal to extract oil from the yellow belt. Meanwhile, some radicals attack one of the oil sites and kill the crew. Nesib learns that it is the act of his other tribes and manages to convince them to accept oil extraction by gifting them valuables (personal watches). The envoy returns from Amar and tells Nesib that Amar considers the exploitation of yellow belt a violation of the treaty. Saleh tells Auda that he can convince their father (Amar) and decides to leave without informing anyone. Halfway through, Saleh kills his support staff and flees the scene.
Nesib, desperate to gain from the oil, decides to marry Auda to his daughter Leyla (Freida Pinto). Auda reluctantly agrees as he is convinced that it is a plot so that Amar will not attack Nesib. Meanwhile Saleh is caught and Ibn Idriss kills him accusing him of treason. Nesib decides to send Auda to convince Amar for using the yellow belt. Auda meets Amar, who is surprised to learn that Auda has come as a representative of Nesib. Auda learns more about his father during his stay there. Amar tells Auda that Nesib offered 5%, than 35% of the earnings but he refused the offer. Nissib has even promised to throw in Amar's sons as some kind of property value. When Auda tries to explain to him, he says that everything in his home is made either out of blood or love, but not money and that money has no value. The following day a meeting is held with Amar's allies. They say that by letting foreigners extract oil they let themselves be destroyed their culture will be gone, while Auda unsuccessfully argues by saying if god had not meant it for them to use, he wouldn't have given it in their soil.
Amar sends an envoy, Hassan Dakhil, to Nesib offering to cease all hostilities if Nesib agrees to shut down the oil wells and expel the foreigners. Nesib refuses and makes a counter offer to Hassan Dakhil. Later Amar receives a message from Hassan that seemingly indicates that Hassan has defected to Nesib. Following this setback, Amar makes a plan to send all of his prisoners into the desert with weapon props to act as decoys, in order to lure Nesib's army into the desert by while Amar takes his real army to capture Nesib's city, Hobeica. He offers the leadership of the decoy army to Auda. Auda protests, objecting that to send the prisoners into the desert would mean certain death, but in the face of his father's disapproval he reluctantly agrees and ventures out, accompanied by his half brother Ali, a doctor, who does not seem to share their father's xenophobic mindset. The plan works and Nesib sends six armored cars after them. However the heavy cars are stuck in the sands and Auda's men are able to overpower their occupants, though not without heavy losses. The camel carrying the carrier pigeons is killed and the pigeons escape. One of them manages to make it way back to Salmaah. The blood on the pigeon along with the absence of a written message leads Amar to believe that there have been no survivors. When the armored cars fail to return, Nesib sends a plane with Tariq on board to reconnoiter. Auda sets another decoy, having his men lie down and play dead around a destroyed armored car. When Tariq lands to investigate, Auda's men swarm him. Tariq manages to make it back to the plane, but Auda's men force it down. Auda finds his body in the ensuing wreckage and is overcome with remorse at all the needless deaths. He rallies the remaining prisoners and offers to divide the remaining water between them and set them free. The prisoners decide to follow Auda, who leads them to the sea believing that they would find water there, based from what he had heard from a dying camel rider.
The army, now Auda's army, finally arrive at the sea but are disheartened to find no fresh water, until Ali finds an underwater spring. Having refilled their water skins, the army moves away and comes upon a Beni Sirri slaver tribe. Auda leads a small group of men to meet the Sheikh of Beni Sirri tribe and during the meeting the Sheikh beats Aicha (Liya Kebede), a slave girl, brutally. The Sheikh seemingly hold's the slave's Zamiri tribe in derision as the Zamiri are one of the few tribes that allow women the same freedoms that are given to men. Auda tries to protest and offers to buy the slave girl in exchange for his mother's ring, who belonged to the same tribe as the slave girl. An argument ensues, and the Sheikh reveals that Nesib has already bought the loyalty of the Beni Sirri and that they intended to kill him in exchange of a reward. The rest of Auda's men launch surprise attack, surrounding and overwhelming the Beni Sirri, leaving Auda to handcuff and disgrace the leaders of Beni Sirri tribe and freeing the slaves. To add insult to injury, Ali relieves the sheikh of the gold watch given to him by Nesib at Auda's wedding. In gratitude for freeing the slaves, the other tribes pledge their own resources to Auda. Aicha offers to lead Auda back to her own tribe in order to enlist their aid. However Auda is mistakenly shot by one of the tribe and seems to have been killed, only to revive in the middle of his own funeral rites. Ali realizes that Auda's condition had in fact been a medical phenomenon known as mors putativa in which a head trauma induces all the symptoms of death. However the tribals believe that Auda has been revived from death in the manner of Prophet Muhammad and that he is the leader foretold in the legends of the Zamiri tribe. Ali, despite knowing the true nature of Auda's injuries, does nothing to dissuade this notion. The Zamiri tribe now rallies around Auda as their leader. One of Nessib's planes manages to track them down and opens fire. The tribals manage to shoot down the plane, but not before it fatally wounds Ali. Auda administers his last rites as Ali lies dying in his arms. With his last breath Ali makes Auda promise to 'overturn the chessboard' in effect asking him to depose both Amar and Nessib, thereby putting an end to the conflict.
Auda rides with his army to the gates of Nessib's city. Amar arrives and meets Auda, who reveals that he has united all the other tribes and intends to keep the Yellow Belt for them. Amar reveals that Nessib has agreed to Amar's conditions and demands that Auda turn over his army to Amar. During the discussion, Amar is shot dead by the sheikh of the Beni Sirri tribe, who had in fact been aiming for Auda. Auda's army is outraged, believing that Nessib had double crossed them and tried to kill Auda during the negotiations. Nessib's army commander realizes that with Amar dead, there is nothing to stop Auda from attacking. As the shells rain down, Auda gives up any hope for talks and leads his army to sweep over Nessib's defenses. Though Nessib has superior weaponry, the combined might of all the tribes in Auda's army overwhelms them by sheer numbers.
Auda is knocked off his horse by a stray shell and beset upon by the Beni Sirri sheikh. The sheikh easily defeats him at close quarter combat and mocks him, asking whether Auda learned to fence 'in a library'. Just before the sheikh can land the killing blow, Aicha stabs him in the back and saves Auda. Learning about the developments, Nesib abdicates the throne in favor of his only remaining child, Leyla. Auda, through his marriage to Leyla is now ruler of both cities. In the city, Auda's forces find Hassan in the dungeons, indicating that he had never betrayed Amar, but had instead been held prisoner by Nessib. Auda walks into the library where he finds Nesib, who compliments him on his achievements and asks what Auda intends to do. Auda replies that unlike his father, he does not dislike foreigners and that he believes that they have much to offer each other. On being questioned by Auda about what to do with Nessib, he admits that if he were in Auda's place he would have had him killed, quickly and painlessly. Auda instead opts to send him to Houston to sit on the Board of Directors of the oil companies, where he can protect the interests of their people. Auda offers him a backhanded compliment saying that 'he can't think of anyone more cunning' than Nesib to fill the role and that the oil company people 'deserve him'. The film ends with Auda holding a meeting with several foreigners presumably with oil companies.
- Tahar Rahim as Prince Auda
- Antonio Banderas as Emir Nesib
- Mark Strong as Sultan Amar
- Freida Pinto as Princess Leyla
- Jan Uddin as Ibn Idriss
- Riz Ahmed as Dr. Ali
- Corey Johnson as Thurkettle
- Liya Kebede as Aicha
- Lotfi Dziri as Sheikh of Beni Sirri tribe
- Hichem Rostom as Nesib Colonel
- Mostafa Gaafar as Khoz Ahmed
- Jamal Awar as Companion Khoz Ahmed
- Driss Roukhe as Magroof
- Akin Gazi as Saleh
While there was praise for its ambitious scope, production values and action, the film was overall poorly received, criticized for being tedious and slow, as well as the ethnicity of its lead actors (namely Banderas and Strong). "Touted as the Arab breakthrough into the international cinema arena, Black Gold pits Mark Strong and Antonio Banderas against each other as warring emirs torn between the traditional ways and modern temptations. But despite its honourable intentions, Black Gold hits the ground with a terrible clunking thud, its broken-English dialogue squeezing the life out of it practically from the off," The Guardian's Andrew Pulver wrote in his analysis.
- "Black Gold (2011) (2011)". Boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
- Smith, Ian Hayden (2012). International Film Guide 2012. p. 117. ISBN 978-1908215017.